“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” — Philippians 2:5-7
She is a three-time Olympic gold medalist as an athlete, and as a coach is a two-time national champion and seven-time SEC champion (arguably the toughest conference in college sports). However, for University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley, life is about much more than winning.
“A lot of people think that X’s and O’s are the biggest part of coaching, but it‘s actually very little. It’s about relationships and discipline,” she says.
For the native of North Philadelphia, and pioneer for excellence in college leadership, the journey is about much more than physical achievements. To date, her Innersole foundation has given more than 30,000 new pairs of sneakers to children in difficult situations, carrying her impact beyond athletics.
Impact is not always immediate. Lives with the capability to impact others must be grown, nurtured and mentored by a leader over time. There are many examples, but perhaps no mentor transformation was so beautifully captured in history than the one between a fisherman and the Messiah.
It may start small, but the journey has to begin somewhere. Great leaders know and understand that they cannot accomplish greatness alone; they have to call others into service. “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen” (Matthew 4:18, ESV). Interestingly, Jesus does not choose who we would expect. He does not choose a pharisaical teacher of the law or a Greek philosopher with the right academia or social standing. Rather, Jesus chooses someone from the docks, a fisherman named Simon, to mentor and lead. At this point, the Peter we know from the Bible is not fully formed or even yet named as such, but he had an open heart to Jesus’ call. He may still have been Simon, but he was someone Jesus recognized as willing to immediately leave everything and follow the mission.
True leaders not only call people to new places, they also walk out success and failures side by side. Jesus walked with Peter on the water and reached out when he started sinking in the waves. Perhaps most famously, after Peter denied the Lord, Jesus walked him through reinstatement as a disciple and leader of the church. The reality of servant leadership is messy, because it causes leaders to become personally involved in helping others grow. Jesus gives us a leadership model of mentor and care through the difficult times.
Finally, Jesus does not expect His followers to do it on their own. Jesus empowers Peter both physically and spiritually for the journey ahead. The beauty of following Jesus means we do not have to do life only through physical strength or legalism. Jesus gave Peter the confidence to move forward by giving him a new name. Initially in their relationship, Jesus referred to Peter as Simon, which means “reed” in the wind. But Jesus later calls him Peter, or “rock.” “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18, NLT).
Servant leaders who walk with Jesus will never leave someone as they are found. Rather, they will engage people where they are (calling from the fishing wharf), walk with them through success and failure (walking on water to sinking and denial), and empower them and their identity in Christ (new name of “rock”).
The beauty of this mentoring, though costly in terms of time and energy, is that it has an exponential effect. The same Peter who denied Jesus preached his first public sermon that brought 3,000 to Jesus (Acts 2:41). While it may not be simple, clean or timely, walking through life with others empowers them to live lives that are able to impact others.
— Kyle C. Nyce
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